1930s Beauty

In the 1930s, the country was dealing with the aftermath of the Great Depression, but the film industry continued to grow. And along with it came new beauty icons. More than ever before, the public needed distraction–and films delivered. Remember, this was a time before television and Internet, so film stars were really the only public figures that everyone could see.

Looks changed as the decade went on, and certain film stars had their own signature look, but there were some similarities and trends that are thought to be classic 1930s. Eyebrows were very thin, rounded, usually drawn on and extended down towards the temples. Many women tweezed or completely shaved off their eyebrows, drew in new, thin brows and applied a layer of petroleum jelly to make them shine. The petroleum jelly was also sometimes used on bare lids to give a sheen to the area. But eyeshadows themselves were still matte. The classic Hollywood look used shadows in natural colors to highlight and contour the eye, but “everyday” women often wore shadows in shades that matched their eye color. A slightly downturned, sleepy eye was a popular shape for onscreen sirens. One mascara trend was to use brown on the lashes, with black added on the tips. False lashes were popular and they tended to be long, light and feathery as opposed to dark, full and heavy.

Pale skin and foundations with pink undertones were in vogue. In the early 30s, light pink cheek colors were most common, but the colors got deeper as the decade progressed. The popular lip shape was an overdrawn top lip that was rounded and extended at the corners. This elongated bow shape, most dramatically worn by Joan Crawford, was referred to as the “Crawford Smear,” “Rosebud Mouth,” or the “Cruller.” The vampy purple reds from the 1920s were traded in for light rose, raspberry and later in the 30s, red shades.

When it came to hair, gone were the bangs of the 1920s. Hair was slightly longer, styled in waves and usually pushed back from the face or side parted. Finger waves were popular throughout the decade. Jean Harlow, the first platinum blonde, started a frenzy for lightened locks. Hair color formulas were far from perfected at this point, so many women damaged their hair using harsh bleaches and color kits. When brunette Hedy Lamarr came on the scene in 1938, women started to color their hair brown to emulate her. Just thinking about the drastic hair changes many women made in the 30s makes me want to deep condition my hair…

Nails were often painted to match dress colors. Sometimes a silvery topcoat was added. The polish was applied to the center of the nails leaving the half moons and tips bare. (A girl like me who has no visible half moons would have had to fake it!) Towards the end of the decade, women started painting the nail tips as well.

Compacts became popular, so women could openly touch up powder and lipstick while showing off an accessory. There were many beautiful compacts made, and I love the look of them. I think there is something so ladylike and classy about the vintage compacts. To me, modern makeup packaging just doesn’t have that “ooh la la!” factor.

There was a luxurious feel to the 1930s beauty looks, thanks to the Hollywood stars and starlets of that decade. It was the beginning of the Golden Age of film, and the actresses who defined it were glamorous, sultry, beautiful, and alluring. There was nothing low maintenance or natural about these looks, but who says that’s bad thing?

Have a beautiful day 🙂

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